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Leukemia. 2000 Apr;14(4):642-56.

Differential abilities of the Raf family of protein kinases to abrogate cytokine dependency and prevent apoptosis in murine hematopoietic cells by a MEK1-dependent mechanism.

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Department of Microbiology and Immunology, East Carolina University School of Medicine, Greenville, NC 27858, USA.


In this study, the abilities of constitutive and conditional forms of the three Raf kinases to abrogate the cytokine dependency of FDC-P1 cells were examined. The constitutively active forms (delta) of all three Raf kinases were fused to the hormone-binding domain of the estrogen receptor (ER), rendering their activities conditionally dependent upon exogenous beta-estradiol. The vast majority of deltaRaf:ER-infected FDC-P1 cells remained cytokine-dependent; however, cells were obtained at low frequency in which expression of deltaRaf:ER abrogated cytokine dependency. Isoform specific differences between the Raf kinases were observed as cytokine-independent cells were obtained more frequently from deltaA-Raf:ER than either deltaRaf-1:ER or deltaB-Raf:ER infected cells. To determine whether the regulatory phosphorylation sites in the Raf proteins were necessary for abrogation of cytokine dependency, they were changed by site-directed mutagenesis. Substitution with phenylalanine eliminated the transforming ability of the deltaB-Raf:ER and deltaRaf-1:ER kinases. However, a similar substitution in A-Raf did not extinguish its transforming activity. The activated Raf proteins induced essential downstream MEK1 activity as treatment with the MEK1 inhibitor, PD98059, suppressed Raf-mediated growth. Activated MAP kinases (ERK1 and ERK2) were detected in deltaRaf:ER-transformed cells, and their presence was dependent upon a functional MEK1 protein. The cytokine-independent phenotype required the continued activity of the deltaRaf:ER proteins as removal of beta-estradiol caused the cells to stop growing and undergo apoptosis. The Raf-responsive cells were found to express autocrine growth factors, which promoted their growth. Constitutive activation of the Raf-1 oncogene resulted in malignant transformation as cytokine-independent FDC-P1 cells infected with a retrovirus encoding an activated Raf-1 protein formed tumors upon injection of immunocompromised mice. In summary, Raf kinases can abrogate cytokine dependency, prevent apoptosis and induce the tumorigenicity of a certain subpopulation of FDC-P1 cells by a MEK1-dependent mechanism.

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